Twitter algorithm changes will hide more bad tweets and trolls

Twitter’s latest effort to curb trolling and abuse on the site takes some of the burden off users and places it on the company’s algorithms. If you tap on a Twitter or real-world celebrity’s tweet, more often than not there’s a bot as one of the first replies. This has been an issue for so long it’s a bit ridiculous, but it all has to do with the fact that Twitter really only arranges tweets by quality inside search results and in back-and-forth conversations. Twitter is making some new changes that calls on how the collective Twitterverse is responding to tweets to influence how often people see them. With these upcoming changes, tweets in conversations and search will be ranked based on a greater variety of data that takes into account things like the number of accounts registered to that user, whether that tweet prompted people to block the accounts
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What Happens in an Internet Minute in 2018?

In your everyday life, a minute might not seem like much. But when it comes to the vast scale of the internet, a minute of time goes much further than you ever could have imagined. That’s because the internet has a degree of scale that our linear human brains are unaccustomed to operating on.

An Internet Minute in 2018

Today’s infographic is from Lori Lewis and Chadd Callahan of Cumulus Media, and it shows the activity taking place on various platforms such as Facebook or Google in each 60 second span. It really helps put an internet minute in perspective. What Happens in an Internet Minute in 2018?

Just a Minute, Please

The numbers for these services are so enormous that they can only be shown using the 60 second time scale. Any bigger, and our brains can’t even process these massive quantities in any useful capacity. Here are just a few key numbers scaled to a
2018 vs. 2018
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Favstar says it will shut down June 19 as a result of Twitter’s API changes for data streams

As Twitter develops an ever-closer hold on how it manages services around its real-time news and social networking service, a pioneer in Twitter analytics is calling it quits. Favstar, an early leader in developing a way to track and review how your and other people’s Tweets were getting liked and retweeted by others on the network, has announced that it will be shutting down on June 19 — a direct result, its creator Tim Haines notes, of changes that Twitter will be making to its own APIs, specifically around its Account Activity API, which is coming online at the same time that another API, User Streams, is being depreciated. Favstar and others rely on User Streams to power its services. “Twitter… [has] not been forthcoming with the details or pricing,” Favstar’s creator Tim Haines said of the newer API. “Favstar can’t continue to operate in this environment of uncertainty.
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Twitter has an unlaunched “Secret” encrypted messages feature

Buried inside Twitter’s Android app is a “Secret conversation” option that if launched would allow users to send encrypted direct messages. The feature could make Twitter a better a home for sensitive communications that often end up on encrypted messaging apps like Signal, Telegram, or WhatsApp. The encyrpted DMs option was first spotted inside the Twitter for Android application package (APK) by Jane Manchun Wong. APKs often contain code for unlaunched features that companies are quietly testing or will soon make available. A Twitter spokesperson declined to comment on the record. It’s unclear how long it might be before Twitter officially launches the feature, but at least we know it’s been built. The appearance of encrypted DMs comes 18 months after whistleblower Edward Snowden asked Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey for the feature, which Dorsey said was “reasonable and something we’ll think about”. Twitter has gone from “thinking about” the feature
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Yesterday’s Terabyte + What to Read This Weekend

Less than a fortnight ago, the proverbial airwaves and media web were falling all over themselves, chastising Facebook and its data addiction, which allowed the company to amass data on over two billion people. The insidious impact of the data and Facebook was all the object of moral outrage. Fast forward to this week, all that has been conveniently forgotten – replaced by happy, shiny headlines from Facebook’s annual festival of self-aggrandization, F8. Add to that an earnings report that sent Wall Street into raptures and pushed the stock higher, not too far from its all-time high of about $194 a share. Morality and ethics have no place in this perpetual profit machine. Continue reading "Yesterday’s Terabyte + What to Read This Weekend"

The formula behind San Francisco’s startup success

Why has San Francisco’s startup scene generated so many hugely valuable companies over the past decade? That’s the question we asked over the past few weeks while analyzing San Francisco startup funding, exit, and unicorn creation data. After all, it’s not as if founders of Uber, Airbnb, Lyft, Dropbox and Twitter had to get office space within a couple of miles of each other. We hadn’t thought our data-centric approach would yield a clear recipe for success. San Francisco private and newly public unicorns are a diverse bunch, numbering more than 30, in areas ranging from ridesharing to online lending. Surely the path to billion-plus valuations would be equally varied. But surprisingly, many of their secrets to success seem formulaic. The most valuable San Francisco companies to arise in the era of the smartphone have a number of shared traits, including a willingness and ability to post massive, sustained
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You should change your Twitter password right now

Yes, it’s that time again — password changing time. On Thursday, Twitter revealed that a bug caused the platform to store user passwords in unmasked form. Normally, sensitive personal data like passwords would be stored in hashed form using a mix of letters and numbers to protect the content of the password itself. In this instance, it sounds like Twitter stored plain text passwords openly without any hashing on an internal log.

Twitter notes that it currently has “no reason to believe password information ever left Twitter’s system” or that these unprotected passwords were accessed by hackers, but

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Twitter announces new video partnerships with NBCUniversal and ESPN

Twitter is hosting its Digital Content NewFronts tonight, where it’s unveiling 30 renewals and new content deals — the company says that’s nearly twice as many as it announced last year. Those include partnerships with the big players in media — starting with NBCUniversal, which will be sharing live video and clips from properties including NBC News, MSNBC, CNBC and Telemundo. Twitter also announced some of the shows it will be airing as part of the ESPN deal announced earlier today: SportsCenter Live (a Twitter version of the network’s flagship) and Fantasy Focus Live (a livestream of the fantasy sports podcast). Plus, the company said it’s expanding its existing partnership with Viacom with shows like Comedy Central’s Creator’s Room, BET Breaks and MTV News. During the NewFronts event, Twitter’s head of video Kayvon Beykpour said daily video views on the platform have nearly doubled in the past year. And Kay
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It is time to ask Twitter the same privacy questions

Updated: Media rightfully has been focused on Facebook and its outsized role in what are calling the surveillance economy. But focusing just on Facebook is a mistake, for data accumulation and its subsequent abuse can happen anywhere, anytime. Various data streams are being reassembled for hyper-targeting. And one of these could be Twitter, which sells its data to others.

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Facebook points finger at Google and Twitter for data collection

“Other companies suck in your data too,” Facebook explained in many, many words today with a blog post detailing how it gathers information about you from around the web. Facebook product management director David Baser wrote, “Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn all have similar Like and Share buttons to help people share things on their services. Google has a popular analytics service. And Amazon, Google and Twitter all offer login features. These companies — and many others — also offer advertising services. In fact, most websites and apps send the same information to multiple companies each time you visit them.” Describing how Facebook receives cookies, IP address, and browser info about users from other sites, he noted, “when you see a YouTube video on a site that’s not YouTube, it tells your browser to request the video from YouTube. YouTube then sends it to you.” It seems Facebook is
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The problems with Facebook are inherent in its design, but that can change

The latest controversies of social networks Facebook and Twitter are easily the most heated in their entire 12-14 year history — not just because of their suspect role in enabling interference in the 2016 election, but because by now, nearly all of us are users. If history is any guide, however, this outrage likely won’t last.

The simple fact is Facebook and Twitter have become too

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Twitter replaces its gun emoji with a water gun

Twitter has now followed Apple’s lead in changing its pistol emoji to a harmless, bright green water gun. And in doing so, the company that has struggled to handle the abuse, hate speech and harassment taking place across its platform, has removed one of the means for online abusers to troll their victims. The change is one of several rolling out now in Twitter’s emoji update, Twemoji 2.6, which impacts Twitter users on the web, mobile web and on Tweetdeck.

Below: Apple’s water gun

Below: Twitter’s water gun

The decision to replace an emoji of a weapon to a child’s toy was seen as a political statement when Apple in 2016 rolled out its own water gun emoji in iOS 10. The company had also argued against the addition of a rifle emoji, ultimately leading to the Unicode’s decision to remove the gun from its list of new
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Twitter endorses the Honest Ads Act, a bill promoting political ad transparency

Just hours before social media companies face a regulatory reckoning with Facebook’s appearance on the Hill, Twitter is taking a step to get right with Congress. In a series of tweets from its public policy account, Twitter just announced its decision to back the Honest Ads Act, a piece of legislation introduced last year as a response to mounting evidence that Russia leveraged domestic social media platforms in an attempt to influence U.S. politics during the 2016 presidential election.

Bots on Twitter share two-thirds of links to popular websites: Pew

It’s official: Bots are doing a lot of PR grunt work on Twitter — especially when it comes to promoting porn websites. That perhaps unsurprising conclusion about what automated Twitter accounts are link sharing comes courtesy of a new study by the Pew Research Center which set out to quantify one aspect of bot-based activity in the Twittersphere. Specifically the researchers wanted to know what proportion of tweeted links to popular websites are posted by automated accounts, rather than by human users? The answer they came up with is that around two-thirds of tweeted links to popular websites are posted by bots rather than humans. The researchers say they were interested in trying to understand a bit more about how information spreads on Twitter. Though for this study they didn’t try to delve directly into more tricky (and sticky) questions about bots — like whether the information being spread by these
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Hot security startup Duo Security opens office in Downtown Detroit

Duo Security is opening a new office in Downtown Detroit, expanding from its headquarters in Ann Arbor, Michigan . The company will immediately relocate 30 team members to a shared space in Bamboo Detroit in the Madison Building and by the end of the year, plans on moving into a 9,000 square foot space to accommodate additional employees. This is a big win for Detroit. Duo Security is one of the hottest security startups in the space and arguably one of the largest in the state of Michigan. The company raised a $70 million series D in late October 2017, placing its valuation north of a billion. Duo employees 350 people in Ann Arbor, Michigan and an additional 250 in other offices around the world. Through it all Duo has remanded loyal to Ann Arbor but the talent and excitement in Detroit is impossible to ignore. “Metro Detroit has more engineers
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Twitter to live stream weekly MLB games in renewed deal

Major League Baseball games are coming to Twitter as a result of a renewed partnership. This Thursday, Twitter will live stream the Texas Rangers versus the Oakland Athletics at 3:35 PM ET. The game will be the first of the weekly day-game live streams of out-of-market MLB games in the weeks ahead, during the 2018 season. The MLB will announce the games that will air on Twitter ahead of each month’s slate, usually via a tweet. Twitter has worked with the MLB before. As the company was ramping up its live streaming efforts in 2016, it announced it would begin streaming weekly MLB games, along with those from other sports organizations like the NHL and NFL. It then aired weekly games from April through October 2017. Now it will be a home to weekly games, available to U.S. users to stream for free from April through September 2018.
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Twitter makes it easier to share the right part of a live video with launch of ‘Timestamps’

Twitter today is introducing a new feature that will make it easier to share a key moment from a live video, so those viewing the tweet don’t have to scroll to the part of the broadcast you want to talk about. The feature, called “Timestamps,” is something Twitter says it built in response to existing user behavior on Twitter. Before, users could only tweet an entire live video . So, if they wanted to highlight a particular segment, they would tweet the video along with the specific time in the video where the part they’re trying to share begins. Those viewing the tweet would then have to scroll through the video to the correct time, which can be cumbersome on longer broadcasts and challenging on slower connections. For instance:

Twitter moves to ban crypto ads

Twitter is the latest social service to boot out cryptocurrency advertisers. The company told Reuters it will be launching a new policy this week to prohibit the advertising of token sales/initial coin offerings (ICOs), and crypto wallet services. Ads for cryptocurrency exchanges will also be banned — with some limited exceptions. Facebook announced a ban in January, while Google said earlier this month that it will ban them from June. Twitter confirmed the policy change to us, providing the following statement: “We are committed to ensuring the safety of the Twitter community. As such, we have added a new policy for Twitter Ads relating to cryptocurrency. Under this new policy, the advertisement of Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) and token sales will be prohibited globally.” “We will continue to iterate and improve upon this policy as the industry evolves,” it added — flagging its current restricted content policies around financial
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Twitter violates womens’ human rights, according to Amnesty International

Twitter has found itself under fire again. This time, it’s coming from Amnesty International, a non-governmental organization that focuses on human rights. Amnesty International’s new report, “#ToxicTwitter: Violence and abuse against women online,” details Twitter’s failures to ensure safety online and prevent violence and abuse toward women. What Amnesty International is trying to achieve with this report, the organization’s technology and human rights researcher Azmina Dhrodia told TechCrunch, is to look at why and how this is a human rights issue. By framing it as a human rights issue, Amnesty International says it hopes to be able to push Twitter to enforce its own policies consistently and be transparent about how it’s doing so. “Twitter’s failure to adequately and consistently enforce their own policies is leading women to either silence or censor themselves online,” Dhrodia told me. “So women are either leaving the platform, they’re thinking five
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Suspicious likes lead to researcher lighting up a 22,000-strong botnet on Twitter

Botnets are fascinating to me. Who creates them? What are they for? And why doesn’t someone delete them? The answers are probably less interesting than I hope, but in the meantime I like to cheer when large populations of bots are exposed. That’s what security outfit F-Secure’s Andy Patel did this week after having his curiosity piqued by a handful of strange likes on Twitter . Curious about the origin of this little cluster of random likes, which he just happened to see roll in one after another, he noticed that the accounts in question all looked… pretty fake. Cute girl avatar, weird truncated bio (“Waiting you”; “You love it harshly”), and a shortened URL which, on inspection, led to “adult dating” sites. So it was a couple bots designed to lure users to scammy sites. Simple enough. But after seeing that there were a few more of the same type
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